As we enter the significant ‘business-window’ between the end of summer and Christmas, it is a time when we pick up projects with clients and look to develop marketing plans for the coming months. This involves numerous meetings and discussions and I was intrigued to find a common theme arising. Many (if not most) SME business owners, when asked about their primary focus for business planning, respond with the same answer time and again.
More Enquiries and Sales!
“If I generate more leads then we will be able to convert them into sales and all will be fine.”
The focus is on More Sales. However, I often hear business owners talking about a cycle of feast and famine. A push on sales development can drive an increase in revenue. However, while fulfilling that business, eyes are taken off the sales process. As a result, the flow of enquiries dwindles and revenues decline. Then the whole process has to start again!
Think outside the ‘Sales’ box
Don’t get me wrong, sale revenue (well, profitable revenue!) is vital to delivering short-term success. But, rather than focussing purely on securing sales, you can also focus on delivering value? I believe focussing on the value you deliver (and ensuring that your customers and markets understand and appreciate this value) is at the heart of marketing. Even better, it can be a powerful way of driving sales. Let’s face it, if someone knows you deliver real value that they can benefit from – and trusts you to deliver to them and meet their needs, there is no reason for them not to do business with you.
Build your brand value
So, building strong, sustained relationships with markets and customers, you become known as a reliable, professional expert in your field, a natural point of enquiry when someone is looking for the products/services you supply. You aren’t just selling, you are building your brand. It was announced today that Amazon has just hit a valuation of $1Trillion. They haven’t achieved this milestone by focussing on selling a lot, they have focussed on making sure they deliver genuine and groundbreaking value and benefit to their markets. Another example is RyanAir. the company has recently announced that even carry-on baggage will incur extra charges. Inevitably they received negative press about this – but they don’t care! People still know that if you want cheap flights across Europe, RyanAir is a leading and competitive option. Ultimately they deliver what people want so people keep buying! OK, your business might not be Amazon or RyanAir but the same principles apply to you. Ensuring you deliver real value and benefit – and making sure your customers and markets know this – is the best way to build Brand Value – and strong Brand Value is a great platform from which to sell! OK, so you want to focus on Value as well as Sales. What should you do? Here are 2 key questions to ask yourself:
1. Do I have a joined-up strategy?
There is no Business Magic Wand! Don’t just try a single approach in isolation hoping it will be THE ONE, then drop it when it doesn’t really give you what you are looking for the try something new only for the same thing to happen again! A well-considered and joined-up strategy which brings together the core elements of your company and identifies messages demonstrating the real value benefits you can offer to your target markets is more likely to deliver consistent results. To give your approach the best chance of delivering, it is important to have a plan which takes a joined-up strategy and allows different activities to work in harmony and be effectively controlled and managed.
Take time to develop a strategy
Creating a realistic, practical business development strategy is a vital step to building business brand value. Demonstrating a well thought through strategy will build the confidence in your brand.
2. Do I have a realistic action plan?
The best strategy in the world is a waste of time if you don’t do something about it! If you want to build brand value through your strategy, you need to communicate and engage with your target customers and markets. I talked at the top about the cycle of business development feast and famine. Not having an action plan is another driver of this cycle as you tend to only do something when you think about it, when you notice. If you are busy, you are less likely to notice! An action plan sets out who is doing what and when to ensure your marketing communications happen and you talk to your markets.
Don't just act when you think about it - set out an action plan
Sometimes you just get too busy and something has to give. When this happens, it easy to let your efforts lapse. It is simpler to forgive yourself than trying to get forgiveness from your customer (which doesn’t help your brand either!) Conversely, regular communication with your customers and markets, delivering relevant messages with useful and interesting content means people get to know you, and the right content helps them to engage with you, to understand what you and your company are about. As this understanding grows and they see it fit with their own needs, your brand becomes established.
Maintaining regular communication is where delegation can make the difference and having an action plan is central to effective delegation. An action plan should set out what needs to be done, by whom and when. Part of setting out your plan will be to make sure the person or people tasked with doing the job have the knowledge and capability to do it. If not, you will have to do it differently this time but maybe you have highlighted a training opportunity – and a well trained and capable team is a valuable element of sustained business brand value,
Technology has revolutionised SME marketing. E-mail and other social media platforms can be great ways to engage with your market and with the host of support tools that are available, you can – when you have time – schedule tasks forward to happen later – when you are busy! You can even drive market communication from your mobile when you are out and about allowing you to make use of time that otherwise might be wasted. So, my initial question was Sales or Value – What is your focus? Hopefully, I have set out here that the answer is not one or the other – but both, working together in a joined-up way. Value focus builds the platform that can deliver consistent sales revenue.